Future Bison football players using Badlands Bowl to build chemistry

In his first time playing 11-man football in a while, Cordell Volson is just trying learn the ropes of playing offensive tackle.He's got a ways to go before he begins practicing at North Dakota State. Volson, coming over from 9-man Drake-Anamoose...

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Former Drake-Anamoose and future North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson, center, blocks during Team North Dakota’s practice on Wednesday at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

In his first time playing 11-man football in a while, Cordell Volson is just trying learn the ropes of playing offensive tackle.
He’s got a ways to go before he begins practicing at North Dakota State.
Volson, coming over from 9-man Drake-Anamoose, will be one of three future Bison on Team North Dakota’s roster in the 23rd annual Badlands Bowl at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Biesiot Activities Center.
“In 9-man, we don’t have tackles, so it’s a bit of a learning curve,” Volson said, “but that’s what I’ll be playing at NDSU, so it’s getting me a good head start on next fall.”
While learning an 11-man system, Volson is just getting his feet wet before he plays for the five-time FCS national champions. This week, he’s practicing alongside Dickinson Trinity’s Zach Kubas and Oakes’ Michael Kelly, both NDSU walk-on offensive lineman to be competing for Team North Dakota.
Volson, from Balfour, acknowledged that Team Montana historically leads the matchup -- it has a 16-6 record since the game was born in 1994 including a 40-25 win in Montana last year -- but he wants to turn that around.
“To have the opportunity to put our state back on top,” Volson said, “to try our best to do that is an honor in and of itself.”
Kubas said he’s known Volson from NDSU camps as well as unofficial campus visits and is looking forward to get to know him more as a player.
“We’ve been pretty good friends, so finally getting to play with him in an actual game is going to be a lot of fun,” Kubas said. “I’ll get to learn some of his strengths and how we can play well together.”
Kelly, who hadn’t met Kubas or Volson until he started doing drills this week, said he appreciates knowing some of his future teammates before he starts school and practices.
“We would get to know each other sooner or later because I know the bond between all football players, it sticks together,” Kelly said. “Going in, we’ll be able to chime in with other guys.”
Kubas has gotten to play with those from all levels of football and feels like he’s stacked up well in practices this week.
“You get to go up against the top talent in North Dakota,” Kubas said, “and that helps you prepare for even better talent at NDSU, so you get to make sure you’re still in shape a little bit and go up against that top talent to get you prepared for NDSU at the next level.”

After wanting to play in the bowl game for a while, Kelly said this week is unlike any other because he’s playing with former rivals.
“You get on a team with them, and then you find out they’re actually not that bad of people once you get to be around with them,” Kelly said. “It’s really just been a great week.”
Kelly hasn’t been surprised by the competition despite not playing football since late October.
“It’s a big change from high school football to college, so this stuff here with higher competition, it’s only making you get that much better through the process,” Kelly said. “I wouldn’t say there’s a cream of the crop or anything like that. We’re out here competing.”
Kelly is gunning for a permanent spot on NDSU and has been working to be a Bison for years.
He feels the Badlands Bowl is another step.
“There’s a chip on my shoulder to get on the team and put myself in a good position,” Kelly said. “I’m just excited to go play for the Bison. I’ve always wanted to do it.”
Kubas is so excited to go to NDSU, in fact, that he’s already started NDSU’s “intense” offseason training. The program, he said, is good preparation to practice against players he’s seen play on TV.
“It’ll get your nerves going, but in the end it’s just football,” Kubas said. “You’ve just got to do what you do best and perform to the best of your abilities. There’s nerves to it, and I think there always is as a freshman going to play at the college level. It’s always faster, bigger and stronger guys than you, but that just shows how hard you have to work to get to that level.”
But the NDSU trio will represent Team North Dakota first, and to be amongst the 34 best players in the state, Volson said, is special.
“I think it’s fun to play against some of these guys you’ve heard of or seen on TV,” Volson said. “It’s been fun, and it’s been tough. I think that’s what next fall is going to be like. It’s a big step and building block to my future.”
‘A last hurrah’
For those players going to NDSU but not playing, the Badlands Bowl is a bit of a last chance to put on pads.
Fargo South guard Cale Dunwoody said he’s simply looking to give the game his all.
“It’ll be a good experience for a last hurrah,” Dunwoody said. “It’s like your last game. You leave it all out there and hope for the best.”
Also going to NDSU but not to play football, Bismarck High middle linebacker Jake Sanders said this week’s practices have been fun, yet challenging.
“It’s a lot faster. The guys are tough and coming after you,” Sanders said, “rather than having JV guys who are scared of you. So it’s real nice to get some competition and get ready for the game.”
Though Sanders admitted playing with his former rivals has been strange, he became accustomed to his fellow players quickly.
“You get to play with the best guys in your state, and you’re going up against the best guys from Montana, so it’s going to be a really good competition,” Sanders said. “You just get really excited and pumped up for the game.”
Dunwoody said this week has been refreshing practicing against the state’s best rather than his own team’s JV.
And going up against Montana players will be unique, Dunwoody said, but it’s an honor to represent his state.
“We want to see who’s a powerhouse,” Dunwoody said. “We’ve been playing for four years, and now we want to see who’s the better state at football, so we’ll give it a whirl and see who’s top dog.”

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